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Bringing Up Your Brood: Becoming a Parent in France

Adjusting to a new way of family life is hard, especially for expats moving to a foreign country. However, the French welfare system is in place to help you through tough times, and InterNations is here to help you every step of the way, from adoption to when to eat dinner.

At a Glance:

  • Adults over the age of 28 may apply to adopt, regardless of their marital status.
  • Same-sex couples have been able to adopt since 2013.
  • Any person with children who is residing in France legally may apply for family benefits.
  • Mealtimes are an important aspect of family life in France.

France’s Family Structure

In 2016, the total population of France grew by 0.4% and, until recently, the country was acclaimed for its high fertility rate. However, the fertility rate has significantly dropped, with 34,000 fewer babies being born in France in 2016 compared to 2014. Nonetheless, with an average 1.93 children per woman, France is still among the countries with the highest population growth across Europe.

As far as parenting styles are concerned, families in France have a reputation for being fairly stern with their children: this has resulted in French children being known for their good behavior — at least if some recent bestsellers in English-speaking countries are to be believed. According to their authors, parents in the US or the UK, for example, tend to gently rebuke their children. By comparison, French parents are said to be more in favor of enforcing discipline within the household.

One thing is certain, though: families in France are often focused on mealtimes. It is common for families to have at least one or two sit-down meals every day, and eating tends to be a social time for the family, rather than a requirement. Like the UK’s teatime, France has goûter between 16:00 to 18:00, which is a meal for children involving sweet treats, milk, biscuits, and juice. The family dinner usually takes places at around 19:30 or 20:00.

Extended families are common in France, particularly in rural areas, with grandparents often being significantly involved in the lives of their grandchildren and living nearby.

Love is All Around: Adoption in France

Some adults start their family life in a different way, choosing to go down the path of adoption. French residents over the age of 28 are entitled to apply to adopt a child, regardless of whether they are married or single. A child can be adopted at any age; however, those older than 14 are obligated to give their assent to be adopted by the potential parents.

Since 2013, it has also been possible for same-sex couples to adopt. Lesbian couples may be inclined to choose this option, as female same-sex couples do not have access to assisted reproductive technology in France.

The child must be at least 15 years younger than the potential parent, unless the child’s biological parent is married to the new parent: in this case the adoptive parent must be ten years older than the child. If the potential adoptive parent is married, the consent of their spouse is also needed.

Adoption leave is ten weeks long, or 22 weeks for the adoption of more than one child. If there are already two or more children in the family, this leave is extended to 18 weeks.

France’s Welfare System

Whether their children are adopted, fostered, or biological, all parents in France can rest assured that they will be supported by France’s welfare system. Any French or foreign person residing in France with one or more dependent children is entitled to apply for family benefits for their children. Parents of children up to the age of 20 years old can receive family allowance, provided the child is not working or that the child’s monthly earnings are less than 898.83 EUR. 

The CAF is the government organization which is responsible for helping families and providing assistance to children residing in France. This includes a range of benefits, including crèches, education grants, pregnancy and housing benefits, among other services to see your offspring through childhood.

The best way to contact the CAF and download application forms is through their website. However you may need a French speaker to help you navigate the site — the website is only available in French. Alternatively, the CAF have offices in the majority of French towns and even some villages.

When you apply for benefits in France, you will need to know your numéro d’allocataire in order to communicate with the CAF. This is a seven-digit number which is assigned by the CAF to keep track of your documentation. It will usually be sent to you by post.

Another option to discuss with the CAF is the PAJE, which provides services for young children, such as a basic child allowance and a pre-birth payment. These benefits include a basic monthly allowance amounting to a maximum of 184.62 EUR, until the child turns three years old. Another allowance from the PAJE is a free choice of activity benefit called the CLCA. This applies to families in which a parent has significantly reduced their working hours in order to care for their little one. The exact payment varies from 145.63 EUR to 390.52 EUR, depending on the amount of time the parent has worked. 


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